RIP Jack Morin, PhD 1946-2013
On June 14, sexology lost one of its quiet giants: Jack Morin PhD, author of Anal Pleasure and Health (Down There Press, first published 1981) and The Erotic Mind (1995), has died.
He was 67 years old and passed away peacefully and with dignity, at his home near San Francisco. The cause of death was liver cancer. Morin was a longtime friend of Good Vibrations (we were his first publishing company) and an influential teacher and thinker in the sexuality and psychotherapy communities nationally and worldwide. In addition to his focus on human sexuality, he was also interested in the psychology of peak experiences. Like so many sexologists of his generation, he’d had an interesting and varied life path, including a stint in the ministry. He maintained a therapy office in Hayes Valley, just a couple of blocks from my house in San Francisco, and arguably his careful scrutiny of the sexual tumult, exploration, and community development that centered in San Francisco during his long career here helps explain the kind of books he wrote and his devotion to understanding the byways of sexual experience.
Good Vibrations friends and customers will likely know Jack Morin best because of his groundbreaking book Anal Pleasure and Health. We will never know how many people were able to overcome their fear of anal sex or move past clumsy and painful experiences to have fully pleasurable anal intercourse because of Morin’s book, but his contribution to satisfying back-door play can’t be overstated.
Morin was the one, in all the cultural and sexual swirl of San Francisco as the 1970s waned and the ’80s dawned, who synthesized the joyous (and not-so-successful) anal sex people were having into a book that helped people have it better. I have no idea whether as many people would have had anal sex without Anal Pleasure and Health — but they wouldn’t have had as much delightful and pleasurable anal sex! Every single anal sex class I’ve ever taught has drawn on his knowledge, and I always repeat what I consider one of his most interesting and useful insights: Anyone who wants to experience anal penetration can learn to do it pleasurably, but that desire is crucial — people who are saying yes to please a partner, not out of their own sense of wanting it for themselves, may not be able to fully relax enough to avoid pain.
That this is a psychological insight, and not a mechanical technique (though there’s plenty of good technique advice in Anal Pleasure and Health), is central to the reason Morin was so important to this field. He didn’t just know about the body — he knew about the mind, and was fascinated by the connection between the two that explains so much about sexual experience, especially diverse sexual desire and the singularity of each person’s sexual profile.
Scholars, sex therapists, and sexologists knew him as a teacher and colleague, but also as the author of the extraordinary book The Erotic Mind. In part a study of peak sexual experiences, he also explores the notion that “unexpected aphrodisiacs” such as anger, guilt and anxiety can be woven into the fabric of a good sex life — not just a problematic one. Morin was not afraid to think outside the box, and that he took people and their sexuality seriously — and really listened to and processed their diverse experiences — is obvious in his work. All people wanting a better sex life and deeper understanding of the many elements in their sexual makeup owe him a great debt of gratitude, for Morin — while perhaps not a household name to everyone — was lionized by the people who did know his work, and sex educators and therapists have been influenced by him for over 30 years. An out gay man throughout his professional life, he spoke eloquently and compassionately to people of all orientations.
Jack’s good friend and colleague Winston Wilde included more information about him in the obituary he wrote for AASECT, the America Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. I include this with his permission:
“Jack was raised in Detroit in a loving and functional family. His father was a gifted artist who worked for the automobile industry designing cars. Jack developed a passion for radio in his teens — creating his own homemade radio station and talk show. Later Jack became a Methodist minister and a 1960’s activist, before moving to California and settling into his long and solid career as a sexologist.
“Jack was an openly gay man his entire adult life, and confided to me once that he was “…hopelessly vanilla, a total failure in the perv department.” But this did not stop Jack from learning about and understanding the rich and messy complexities of sexuality, making him a dedicated and fruitful sexologist. Although not personally an adventurer of anal sex, Jack nonetheless saw a need for literature on this matter, and wrote the all-time best seller which has remained in print since its first publication, Anal Pleasure and Health (1981). Notable of Jack’s other three books is his classic treatise on the psychology of sex — now so familiar to many in this organization — The Erotic Mind (1995).
“Jack was a psychotherapist, sex therapist, and professor of Human Sexuality in San Francisco for almost 40 years. As a dedicated practitioner, he had a monthly peer supervision group for almost the same amount of time, which graciously met at his bedside for the past months so that Jack could continue to attend. My two hour Sunday phone chats and peer supervision with Jack were among the most stimulating sexological events of my career.
“Jack was an active member of the Western Region of SSSS, [the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality], contributing almost every year as Program Chair, panel moderator, host/MC, a presenter, council member, and/or president. Everyone who attended our WR conferences can recall Jack’s intellectual acuity, his self-effacing humor, and his heartfelt deliveries.
“In addition to sexology and psychotherapy, Jack had a passion for photography. He was always buying the latest camera equipment, once traveling to Australia to purchase a camera not yet available in the States. He became an avid traveler, and the photography from these exotic ports is truly spectacular. But his stellar photographic expressions were from his Male Beauty Project, where he photographed average guys with average bodies, capturing the essence of beauty in each one of his ethnically diverse subjects.
“Jack is survived by his sister Anne, his brother Tom, and his mother Nan. Jack was also blessed to have been well-attended to by his former husband Scott and Scott’s husband Dave. Jack was surrounded by loving friends, as everyone who knew him adored him. He will truly be missed by us all.”
And another household name among anal sex enthusiasts, Tristan Taormino, penned her tribute to Jack.
Information about a memorial hasn’t been released, but we will report back on anything that’s open to the public. If friends and family plan a more private gathering, the Center for Sex & Culture will arrange a public celebration of Dr. Jack Morin’s life and work in July.
Photo: Dr. Jack Morin’s Photography